by Barry Fagin
What a pleasure to see your byline on The Gazette’s opinion pages. Of course, you must have had your people write that column on your “Housing Bill of Rights.” But you’re a busy man; that’s completely excusable.
What is less excusable is the idea that what a dozen previous administrations of both parties have screwed up, your administration can somehow fix.
Were I less cynical, I might think you’re just throwing homeowners a bag of goodies, in hopes that they’ll vote for you. True, I’m a homeowner, and proposing legislation that benefits me is at least superficially appealing. But my vote is not bought so cheaply. I know there’s always a catch.
The housing bubble didn’t simply happen. It was the direct and predictable result of the expansion of the money supply and artificially low interest rates a few years before, based on the same “stimulus” ideas your party continues to embrace.
Making things worse were the legions of rules, regulations, subsidies and distortions of lending and housing markets promulgated through HUD, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae. Why did you not mention them?
Have you forgotten your efforts and those of your party to subsidize mortgages to buyers who otherwise could not qualify for them? Have you forgotten the rules, regulations and mandates you and your party imposed on banks? Have you forgotten that the reason banks foreclose is to get liquidity, an area of vital importance to any bank’s regulatory compliance officer?
You say that “others” played by different rules.
You mean the rules written by members of both parties in Congress over the past three decades?
Why exactly would lenders “sell mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them”, unless they knew they would be bailed out? Why exactly would buyers “buy homes they knew they couldn’t afford” unless they were responding to incentives from Washington?
When people play by the rules and things go bad, is it the players’ fault? Or those who made the rules in the first place?
And yet, you are asking us to believe that this time you’ve got it right. All the hundreds of national regulations designed to “fix” problems of home ownership, from the creation of HUD in 1965 to the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, those don’t really matter. You’ve got a Homeowners’ Bill of Rights that will finally fix things. Forgive me, Mr. President, but I doubt it.
What you are proposing is not a bill of rights. Rights are things that human beings have simply because they’re human.
Governments don’t grant them, they are instituted to secure them. What you are proposing is a bill of entitlements, a Bill of Good Things To Have.
Mr. President, America is in crisis. We are trillions of dollars in debt, we have made financial promises we cannot keep, and we are at risk of producing the first generation that may not live as well as its parents. To fix this, we do not need more tweaks to failed programs and attempts to buy off interest groups. Including homeowners like me.
We need rules all right, but only the basic ones that all civilized societies have to permit their economies to flourish. We need sound, stable money. We need a government that lives within its means. We need fraud to be punished. We need more freedom to contract.
Canada, according to one prominent think tank, now has more economic freedom than we do. That is unacceptable.
We need the freedom to earn more of our keep, and to keep more of what we earn. And no bailouts for anyone, rich or poor. As you point out, everyone needs to be held responsible for their actions.
In other words, Mr. President, we don’t need yet another Bill of Rights. The first ten amendments of the Constitution do just fine.
What we need, Mr. President, is liberty.
This article originally appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Point/Counterpoint series February 8, 2012.